National Pavilion UAE explores the potential of arid environments at upcoming 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, with its exhibition ‘Aridly Abundant’

calendar-iconMonday, 13 February, 2023

13 February 2023, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: For its participation at the upcoming Biennale Architettura 2023, the National Pavilion UAE will exhibit a body of research titled Aridly Abundant, curated by Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah.

The exhibition will consider how arid environments can be spaces of abundance by exploring architectural possibilities within arid landscapes in the UAE’s desert plateau, wadis, and coastal plains within Al Hajar Mountain range and its environment. The exhibition will focus on integrating land-based practices in architecture with contemporary technology and explore how these practices could be shared with other countries facing similar impacts of climate change.

Aridly Abundant will transform the pavilion’s space at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia into an environment that exhibits the spatial, material, and tactical qualities of arid environments, creating a backdrop for architectural provocations suited for future global arid contexts; thus, responding to the Biennale Architettura 2023’s theme, The Laboratory of the Future, curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, educator and best-selling novelist, Lesley Lokko.

Faysal Tabbarah, curator of the National Pavilion UAE’s 2023 exhibition said: “The over- arching question I’m exploring through Aridly Abundant is: What architectural possibilities can emerge when we reimagine arid landscapes as spaces of abundance? The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition at Biennale Architettura 2023 delves into themes, lessons and questions based on learnings from within the UAE’s arid landscapes that other places around the world facing the threat of aridity and desertification can find of use, including countries across Africa, Asia, and southern Europe such as Italy, Spain, and Greece.”

Focusing on the relationship between architecture and arid landscapes, the exhibition challenges the perception of arid environments as spaces of scarcity by uncovering ongoing arid land -based practices that rethink mainstream material practices, while foregrounding aridity within architectural production and discourse provokes a future built in, with and for aridity.

The three main areas that are being explored in the research, are:

  1. Building in Aridity – Uncovering arid lands-based practices: Exploring how the intersection between contemporary technologies and land-based practices can provoke resilient context-specific built environments that adapt and react to the challenges imposed by surrounding conditions of aridity.
  2. Building with Aridity – Rethinking extractive material practices: Exploring materials within arid landscapes that can be used to construct environmentally sustainable and culturally rooted built environments.
  3. Building for Aridity – Recognizing aridity as a future global condition: Exploring resources, conditions and knowledge embedded within arid landscapes that can provide critical lessons for regions confronting aridity as a new condition as a result of the climate crisis.

Angela Migally, Executive Director of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation said: “Through the National Pavilion UAE’s participation in the Biennale Architettura, we’re particularly excited to see a global exchange that can help us share our knowledge, and collectively co -create sustainable solutions for the future. We look forward to its presentation within the wider architectural discourse discussions presented at La Biennale di Venezia.”

Accompanying the exhibition, this year’s publication is conceived as a travelogue, will advocate a change in the way we look at aridity by exploring it as a concept; a dynamic condition which can be a state of mind, a practice, or a shared identity. The publication will be taking the seemingly arid landscapes of the UAE as a case study that allows us to declare aridity as a shared and common cultural space through diverse pieces – fiction and poetry, scientific essays, travel stories and photography. The book is co-edited by Faysal Tabbarah and Meitha Almazrooei. Almazrooei is a Ph.D. student in History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduate of Columbia University and founder of WTD Magazine.

Laila Binbrek, Director of the National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia said: “Arid landscapes are a growing global phenomenon and will challenge us to adapt our future ways of life. Tabbarah’s research will shine a light on the UAE’s ancient and modern practices in dealing with conditions which are inherent to our culture. By asking the right questions, Tabbarah encourages necessary dialogue to deepen our understanding of this topic, which other nations who might have to deal with this condition in the future, can use and build upon.” Aridly Abundant exhibition is scheduled to be presented at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia from 20 May to 26 November 2023 (pre-opening May 18 and 19) in Venice, Italy.

The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, with a permanent pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi.

2023 marks the UAE’s twelfth exhibition at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia since 2009, and its fifth participation in the International Architecture Exhibition.